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Archive for the ‘crop failure’ Category

Southern South America Gripped by Drought

Posted by feww on March 1, 2009

Drought in Southern South America

Earth Observatory acquired image January 17, 2009 – February 1, 2009

More than mere colors on the page, the blotches of brown and cream—with only faint dustings of green— in this image represent the impact of one of the worst droughts in southern South America in decades. Each tiny dot of brown is a two-kilometer square of land (250 meters per pixel in the large image) where plants were struggling to grow in the hot, dry weather. Since northern Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Brazil contain rich, intensively cultivated land, the dots include fields of corn, cotton, soy, wheat, or pastureland for grazing cattle. The brown tones reveal that these plants were growing far less vigorously than average in late January 2009.

From mid-November 2008 through mid-February 2009, unusual weather patterns brought extreme temperatures and low rainfall to this normally productive agricultural region. The period is critical for many crops, including cotton, wheat, soy, and corn. As a result, crop yields in the three countries were expected to dip, with Argentina suffering the worst blow, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). Even Argentina’s famous beef industry had been affected by the drought, reported BBC News, as pastureland disappeared, and cattle starved.

Considered individually, many of the brown dots in the image represent a personal disaster, a farmer facing the prospect of a poor harvest or a herd of malnourished or dying cattle. As a whole, the image conveys something of the severity and extent of the disaster. In simple terms, the vegetation index is a scale of the amount of light plants absorb during photosynthesis. By comparing current vegetation index values with values recorded at the same period in previous years, scientists can tell how well plants are growing. While the impact of drought on vegetation is occasionally visible in photo-like satellite imagery, the vegetation index comparison is a more precise way to evaluate the impact of drought.

This image, based on observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite, compares the vegetation index for January 17–February 1, 2009, to the average vegetation index during the same period from 2000 through 2008. Brown shows where the current vegetation index is lower than average, meaning that less photosynthesis was occurring; cream shows where conditions were average; and the few spots of green show where the vegetation index was higher than average. Darker shades of brown stretch from the Pampas grasslands of Argentina to the croplands in southern Brazil. Severe drought clearly impacted the entire region.

References

  • Foreign Agricultural Service. (2009, February). World Agricultural Production. Published in Crop Explorer.

    • United States Department of Agriculture.
    • Accessed February 27, 2009.
  • Piette, C. (2009, February 23). Drought sucks life from Argentina’s farms. BBC News.

    • Accessed February 27, 2009.
  • NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data provided by Inbal Reshef, Global Agricultural Monitoring Project. Caption by Holli Riebeek.
  • Instrument: Terra – MODIS

Posted in argentina, crop failure, southern Brazil, southern South America, Uruguay | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

More Droughts in 2009

Posted by feww on February 25, 2009

Argentina’s 2009 crop production was 40-70 lower than in 2008, depending on the crop

Drought in Argentina


NASA Earth Observatory Image: acquired February 23, 2009


NASA Earth Observatory Image: acquired February 22, 2008

USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) reported a severe drought in southern South America, which had severely affected corn, cotton, and soybean crops in Argentina. Total rainfall since December was far below normal in most areas, and the rain that did fall often did not coincide with key points in crops’ growing cycles. Dust storms occurred in January and again in February, despite some late-to-arrive rains.

[NOTE: Dust storms destroy topsoil and accelerate land erosion. According to estimates made by our colleagues at EDRO, by 2012 critically low levels of top soil will have been reached at which point significant crop failures would occur worldwide.]

This pair of natural-color (photo-like) images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite contrasts 2009 conditions (top) in southern Buenos Aires province with the conditions in 2008 (bottom), a more normal year. The province is one of the country’s major corn-growing areas. The difference in overall greenness is dramatic. In 2008, the area was a checkerboard of lush green, a sign that crops were healthy. In the 2009 image, the landscape was pale green and tan, reflecting the struggle that natural and cultivated vegetation was having with the hot, dry summer.

FAS analyst Denise McWilliams said 2009 crop production was 30-60 percent of what it was in 2008, depending on the crop. Drought stress made the corn crop susceptible to insect pests, and in some fields, farmers simply baled the stunted corn crop for use as livestock forage. Likewise, extreme heat and drought struck the season’s first soybean crop during its flowering and seed pod development phase. Meanwhile, the drought and heat caused wide differences in the height and maturity level of cotton crops, even within the same field, which was expected to complicate the harvest.

References:

  • USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Office of Global Analysis. (2009, February). World Agricultural Production. (pdf) Accessed February 23, 2009.

NASA images by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team. Caption by Rebecca Lindsey [with minor editions made by FEWW], with input provided Denise McWilliams, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

Instrument:  Terra – MODIS

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